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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Tiger Cowrie Cypraea tigris

One of the largest cowrie species, the tiger cowrie has a shiny, smooth, domed shell with a long, narrow aperture, and is variously mottled in black, brown, cream, and orange. Extensions of the cowrie’s mantle (its body’s outer, enclosing layer) cover parts of the exterior of the shell. These extensions have numerous projections, or papillae, whose exact function is unknown, but which may increase the surface area for oxygen absorption or provide camouflage of some sort. Tiger cowries are nocturnal creatures, hiding in crevices among the coral during the day and emerging at night to graze on algae. The sexes are separate and fertilization occurs internally. Females exhibit some parental care in that they protect their egg capsules by covering them with their muscular foot until they hatch into larvae, which then enter the plankton to mature.

Tiger Cowriezoom image
  • Class Gastropoda
  • Length Up to 6 in (15 cm)
  • Habitat Low tide to 100 ft (30 m) on coral reefs
  • Distribution Indian Ocean, western Pacific
Tiger Cowrie habitat mapzoom image